Can my child go to crèche or school with a runny nose?
When SHOULD you keep your child at home?
It's the million dollar question — can I send my child to school if they have a cold? Can I send my baby to crèche with a runny nose that they, without a shadow of a doubt, picked up in said crèche?
It's not a straightforward question — there are lots of things to consider. The main one could be, what will I do if they can't go? Because as we know, in the great juggling act of being a working parent, when one ball drops they all hit the floor.
And of course, these days, there's also a COVID-19 risk to factor in.
According to the HSE, "it's OK to send your child to school or childcare if a runny nose or sneezing are the only symptoms they have."
They also advise that some TLC is probably all your child needs and additionally, it's probably not a sign of COVID-19: "Most of the time, you do not need to phone your GP if a runny nose or sneezing are your child's only symptoms. Talk to your pharmacist instead."
Individual crèche and schools policies
Each school and crèche may have a different policy. If in doubt, give them a call before arriving with your child.
Many crèches and schools don't expect you to keep your child out if they only have a runny nose. But if it's coupled with any other cold or flu symptom, it's likely they will request that you make alternative arrangements.
Policies may understandably be a little more stringent in the last year because of Covid-19. This means crèches and schools may ask you to take further precautions. Some schools require that you wait 48 hours after symptoms present themselves and some require your child to have a COVID test before returning.
COVID-19 guidelines for schools and crèches
If your child has any of the symptoms associated with COVID-19 such as a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or more, loss of smell or taste, a cough or shortness of breath, they should not attend crèche or school. They should be seen by your GP and, where appropriate, seek a test for COVID-19.
If anyone in your home is presenting with COVID-19 symptoms, your child should not attend childcare or school and restrict their movements.
Similarly, if you or your child/children have been in close contact with someone outside of your home who is presenting with symptoms, they should not attend crèche or school.
If any of the above is true, your child may need to be tested for COVID-19 before returning to school or crèche, depending on current government advice. Call the HSE COVID-19 helpline on 1850 24 1850 for the most up-to-date information.
Using your own judgement
Parents know their own kids best. Some children are prone to a case of the sniffles and it may not be possible to keep them home every time.
But we should also consider the health of our kids' classmates, teachers, childcare buddies and providers. We don't want to make anyone else sick.
They do say, however, that the immune system is built in the classroom. Pediatric immunologist, Dr. Sallie Permar MD Ph D recently discussed this very topic in The New York Times.
She said: "Exposure to a wide variety of microbes early in childhood trains kids’ immune systems to recognise what’s dangerous and what’s not. When kids are around other kids, they share microbes that don’t necessarily make anyone sick, but could be good for developing immunity because they seed a more hearty ecosystem of microbes in the body, or microbiome. Our immune systems are built to be exposed to things early in life so we can then be ready for the rest of our life."
So, when COVID is finally a thing of the past, we can go back to not worrying about little sniffles. Until then, better safe than sorry.